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Article posted Jun 16 2013, 1:23 PM Category: Big Brother/Orwellian Source: CNET News Print

NSA Admits Listening to U.S. Phone Calls Without Warrants

National Security Agency discloses in secret Capitol Hill briefing that thousands of analysts can listen to domestic phone calls. That authorization appears to extend to e-mail and text messages too.
by Declan McCullagh


The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed "simply based on an analyst deciding that."

If the NSA wants "to listen to the phone," an analyst's decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned. "I was rather startled," said Nadler, an attorney and congressman who serves on the House Judiciary committee.

Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA's formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.

Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler's disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.

The disclosure appears to confirm some of the allegations made by Edward Snowden, a former NSA infrastructure analyst who leaked classified documents to the Guardian. Snowden said in a video interview that, while not all NSA analysts had this ability, he could from Hawaii "wiretap anyone from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president."

There are serious "constitutional problems" with this approach, said Kurt Opsahl, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has litigated warrantless wiretapping cases. "It epitomizes the problem of secret laws."

The NSA yesterday declined to comment to CNET. A representative said Nadler was not immediately available. (This is unrelated to last week's disclosure that the NSA is currently collecting records of the metadata of all domestic Verizon calls, but not the actual contents of the conversations.)

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Comments 1 - 5 of 5 Add Comment Page 1 of 1
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 16 2013, 8:33 PM

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173242 Heck, I can, and do, listen to phone calls too. It's fun. All it takes is a scanner.
(According to a movie I saw, a cell phone can be used as a scanner too, but I don't have a cell phone.)
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 16 2013, 9:03 PM

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173242 BTW, that works only if you have an older scanner and can pick up older phones. Newer digital phones are a different story. The hobby's not what it used to be.
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2013, 12:28 AM

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65110 Nice logo. They should adopt it.
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2013, 12:28 AM

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65110 Somebody said S is for snooping.
Anonymous

Posted: Jun 17 2013, 1:54 PM

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72223 It is against the law when you listen to phone calls on a scanner.
You will be Reported to the Police and arrested.
You will be Reported to the FCC, fined, and sent to Prison.

Use a land line to avoid Voyeur Creeps!
Comments 1 - 5 of 5 Page 1 of 1


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